Repair Your Own SoftBums

Equipment

  • seam ripper (the better the seam ripper, the less the heartache)
  • sewing machine (capable of straight and zigzag stitch — most basic machines are sufficient)
  • ballpoint needles (don’t use standard needles on PUL!)
  • blind-stitch presser foot for sewing machine (nice-to-have, but not required)
  • scissors
  • for Omni shells, 6” ball point bodkin (or safety pin + patience)

Materials

For each diaper, you will need…

  • SoftBums shell in need of repair
  • One 7.5″ strip of 1.5″ Aplix loop (fuzzy)
    Note: The original Aplix is closer to 7″ but making your strip a little longer will avoid re-using the existing stitch holes, and will hide the imperfections that are common on this area. I like to round all of the Aplix corners slightly; it feels less “poky” to me.
  • Three 1.5″ squares of 1.5″ Aplix loop (fuzzy)
  • Two 1.5″ squares of 1.5″ Aplix hook (prickly)
  • Two 14″ strips of 1/4″ poly braided elastic
  • One 4″ strip of 1/4″ poly braided elastic
  • White thread to match microfleece (always use polyester thread when working with diapers — cotton thread will wick moisture!)
  • Colored thread to match top-stitching (some colors/prints use white, most use thread to match PUL)

You can order repair kits from SoftBums, but if you plan on repairing a lot of diapers it’s more cost-effective to purchase materials in bulk. Materials are $3 per diaper through SoftBums (free shipping), or about $1.75 through Wazoodle (includes shipping).

Tutorial

1. Seam-Ripping (60 minutes)

Bear in mind that, after hundreds of uses and hundreds of wash cycles, the PUL gets stressed, particularly along the stitching lines. You will almost always discover some holes while you are seam-ripping (and you might actually create a hole or two if you get impatient while seam-ripping…it happens to the best of us!) Try not to stress about it–most of the holes will be hidden by your new Aplix. If your diaper was functional before, it will still be functional after you’re all done!

Also, note that removing every last piece of thread isn’t necessary, but will result in a much cleaner end-product. For an even cleaner look, use a fabric shaver to clean up any pilling on the PUL, particularly around the tummy Aplix.

  1. Remove the SoftBums tag. Be very careful, and store it someplace safe–tags are irreplaceable!
  2. Remove the Aplix tabs. Be patient! When in doubt, seam-rip individual stitches. The corners are particularly stubborn, so you will need to be particularly patient with them. Resist the temptation to cut the Aplix itself–you will want to remove every trace of Aplix, and cutting into the Aplix will make this trickier.
  3. Open the tummy access panel from curve-to-curve.
  4. Remove the long Aplix tummy strip.
  5. Seam-rip the top-stitching on each leg casing, from the horizontal section on the back, and then down the vertical section of the casing an inch or two. (On the picture, I tried to lay a piece of white thread along the section you’ll seam you’ll be ripping.)
  6. If you’re working with an Omni, you’ll need to seam-rip each end of the back casing as well. (Omni-specific pictures coming soon.)
  7. Turn the diaper inside out, and find the ends of the leg elastic that are stitched down.
  8. Seam-rip those stitched-down pieces of elastic. At this point, I recommend tying those two loose ends together to avoid losing them into the casing.

2. Leg Elastic Replacement (10 minutes)

  1. Find the toggle-ends of the old leg elastic. Cut off any knots.
  2. Slide the toggles off the old elastic.
  3. As you tie a knot in the old elastic, slip the end of the new elastic into the knot. Pull tight (but not crazy tight). (For the picture, I drew an orange line on the old elastic so you can see which is which.)
  4. Slide the toggle onto the free end of the new elastic.

    (Repeat for the other leg elastic.)

  5. Find the ends of the old elastic that used to be sewn onto the diaper, and that you seam-ripped and tied together during the seam-ripping steps. Gently pull on the old elastic to feed the new elastic through the leg casing. Keep pulling until the knot tying the old elastic to the new elastic slips out of the casing.
  6. Grip the old elastic in one hand and the new elastic in the other and pull firmly until the new elastic slips free of the old elastic.
  7. Sew the new elastic into the seam allowance where the old elastic used to be sewn–the easiest way to find the right spot is to look for loose threads that didn’t get 100% pulled out during the seam-ripping process. (On my machine, I like to use a zigzag stitch, width “3” length “1.5.” I stitch about 1/8″, then back-stitch, then stitch again. Your ideal machine settings may vary. If you’re a newbie sewer, you might want to use your colored thread here, as it’s easier to fix mistakes.) Snip loose threads as you go.

    (Repeat for the other leg elastic.)

  8. Tie the two toggle-ends of the elastic together, then turn diaper right-side-out.

3. Back Elastic Replacement (5 minutes)

  1. Sew the first end of the 4″ elastic in the seam allowance, right over top of the existing elastic.
  2. Thread the loose end of the elastic behind the snap.
  3. Sew the other end of the elastic in the seam allowance, right over top of the existing elastic.
  4. If you’re working with an Omni, you’ll need to use a bodkin or a safety pin to thread your elastic through the casing. (Omni-specific pictures coming soon.)

4. Aplix Replacement (30 minutes)

  1. Wind a bobbin with your colored thread. Your bobbin capacity may vary, but usually three “layers” on the bobbin is enough. Load this bobbin into your machine.
  2. Load white thread into your machine’s top thread feed.
  3. Sew on the first Aplix square (hook), starting at the top right corner (sew a few stitches, back-stitch, then sew the rest of the square). Sew about 1/16″ inside the edge of the Aplix. When you reach each corner, leave your needle DOWN, raise the presser foot, rotate the diaper, lower the presser foot, and resume sewing.
  4. When you reach the corner where you began, leave the needle DOWN, raise the presser foot, position the second Aplix square (loop). Lower the presser foot and continue sewing. When you have sewn all four sides of the second square, back-stitch to secure.
  5. Sew on the third Aplix square (hook), starting at the top left corner (sew a few stitches, back-stitch, then sew the rest of the square). Sew about 1/16″ inside the edge of the Aplix. When you reach each corner, leave your needle DOWN, raise the presser foot, rotate the diaper, lower the presser foot, and resume sewing.
  6. When you reach the corner where you began, leave the needle DOWN, raise the presser foot, position the fourth Aplix square (loop). Lower the presser foot and continue sewing. When you have sewn all four sides of the second square, back-stitch to secure.
  7. This is what the PUL-side looks like at this point. Note that unless you are VERY lucky, your stitches will NOT align perfectly with the original pinholes.
  8. Load a white bobbin into your machine.
  9. Sew the fifth (and final) Aplix square.
  10. Sew on the SoftBums label.
  11. Position the left side of the tummy area in your machine, with the stitch holes from the old stitches just slightly to the right of your needle.
  12. Try to hold the diaper steady while you position the new Aplix onto the diaper.
  13. Make sure the white microfleece is NOT under the needle area. (You might want to fold the corner inside-out to keep it out of the way.)
  14. Sew down the short end of the Aplix strip, back-stitching at each end to secure. Do NOT turn the corner and continue down the long end of the Aplix strip.
  15. Position the right side of the tummy area in your machine, with the stitch holes from the old stitches just slightly to the left of your needle.
  16. Try to hold the diaper steady while you position the new Aplix onto the diaper.
  17. Make sure the white microfleece is NOT under the needle area.
  18. Sew down the short end of the Aplix strip, back-stitching at each end to secure. Do NOT turn the corner and continue down the long end of the Aplix strip.
  19. Sew the top edge of the Aplix strip, checking under the strip as you go to make sure you are following the original Aplix’s needle holes. (You don’t want to sew directly in those needle holes, but you want to follow the same general path to avoid crooked Aplix.) (TIP: Put several strips of scotch tape across the tummy Aplix to hold it steady while you are sewing)
  20. Sew the bottom edge of the Aplix strip. Make sure you don’t accidentally sew the loose leg elastics into the Aplix stitches!

4. Finishing Up! (10 minutes)

  1. For each side, top-stitch the leg casing. Start at the short horizontal section. Stitch, back-stitch, then stitch again. When you reach the corner, put your needle DOWN, raise your presser foot, and reposition the diaper. Then sew along the previous needle holes of the leg casing. Make sure you don’t sew over the leg elastic as you stitch down the long section of the leg casing. Stitch over top of some of the non-seam-ripped top-stitching, then back-stitch to secure.
  2. If you’re working with an Omni, you’ll need to top-stitch the back casing as well. (Omni-specific pictures coming soon.)
  3. Use clips to close up the tummy panel. Shown here are “Clover Wonder Clips” (which are awesome!) but you could use paper clips or binder clips. Don’t use pins–you don’t want to poke holes in your PUL.
  4. If you have one, install your blind-stitch presser foot on your sewing machine, and set your needle position to the far left. If you don’t have a blind-stitch presser foot, you can still top-stitch the diaper, but you’ll need to eye-ball it, so it’ll be trickier to get it perfectly spaced from the edge of the diaper.
  5. Begin sewing on top of the non-seam-ripped top-stitching. Then stitch, back-stitch to secure, and then continue stitching along the edge of the diaper. In the middle of the diaper you’ll need to leave a hole for toggle access. When you reach that point, just back-stitch to secure, lift your presser foot, and move the diaper about 1.5″ and resume stitching, being sure to back-stitch again to secure.In this picture, you can see how often the white microfleece layer is a little stretched out so it “puckers” a little. Try to keep the “pucker” at the toggle access area. It’ll sew up nicer, and it’ll give you a little more room to access your toggles.

All done!

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